Retirement issue sticks in coal-contract talks

Rank-and-file miners said Tuesday they were ready to shut down the soft coal industry to protect their pensions if they have to. "I want to be brutally honest with you," said Lou Antal, president of United Mine Workers District 5 in southwestern Pennsylvania. "Nobody really wants to strike, but we may have to. We want to hang on to what we have." The retirement issue remained the biggest stumbling block, with the industry wanting each company to handle its own pensions and the coal operators insisting on the continuation of industrywide plans.

The current three-year contract expires Mar ch 27.

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